Y2K center director calls its closing lost opportunity

Y2K center director calls its closing lost opportunity

Retired Lt. Gen. Peter Kind says the Year 2000 Information Coordination Center could be a model for other joint systems efforts.

The government missed an opportunity when it decided to dismantle the Year 2000 Information Coordination Center rather than use it as a model for other joint systems efforts, the center's former director said.

The center was a place where people came together regardless of whether they worked in the public or private sector or at the federal, state or local government level, said retired Lt. Gen. Peter A. Kind, who ran the center. He spoke at the recent GovTech 2000 conference in Washington.

The administration created the center as a central point for gathering, analyzing and summarizing information on systems operations during the year 2000 rollover.

In recent weeks, the Office of Management and Budget has overseen the closure of the $47 million center and the distribution of most of the systems and communications equipment to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a plan the administration had set when it first created the center [GCN, May 22, Page 1].

Early this year, some lawmakers and the companies that had provided equipment to the center suggested that OMB instead should use the center as a security facility to deal with systems attacks. But OMB officials decided to stick with their original plan.

Kind said the government missed a 'golden opportunity' to mirror the lessons learned at the center for other joint efforts, such as critical infrastructure protection.

Despite the post-year 2000 view that the date code problem did not really pose a threat, Kind said, when he joined the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion, the situation was relatively grim.

In March 1999, large companies were spending heavily to prepare their systems, but small businesses and local governments had not even recognized that there might be a problem, he said.

Furthermore, there was little coordination among government organizations or an attempt to monitor efforts throughout the rest of the world, Kind said.

Also many federal officials were skeptical of their ability to ready their systems, he said. And the quarterly progress reports from OMB and agency report cards from Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) reflected that skepticism, Kind said.

The center set up a system that let public- and private-sector organizations file status reports via Web browser. Teams then processed the reports and notified senior center officials, who created global status reports.

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